Know More: Traditional Indian Musical Instruments


Simply explained, a musical instrument is created to make sounds. This means that in principle, anything that produces sound can serve as a musical instrument. The origin of the first musical instrument is of disputed status. The oldest instrument found dates back to 67,000 years ago. In India, almost every state has its own unique musical instruments.


PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS: A percussion instrument is any object which produces a sound by being hit with an implement, shaken, rubbed, scraped or by any other action which sets the object into vibration.


Made From: Jackfruit trees

Famous Players: Pazhani Subramanya Pillai, T K Murthy

Making of a Mridangam: A mridangam is a double-sided drum made with a hollowed 1inch thick piece of jackfruit wood. Goat skin leather is used to cover the two mouths of the drum.  These are tied to each other around the edges of the drum using leather straps. These straps are tied in such a way that a situation of high tension is created, which causes the goat skin to reverberate when struck. To create the sounds of bass as well as treble from the same drum, the two membranes are of two different sizes.



Made From: Mango, sheesham and talli trees

Famous Players: Ustad lal Singh Bhatti

Making of a Dhol: A dhol is 18 to 28inches in length and made of thick wood. The two hollow ends of the dhol are covered with goat skin, which gives out a variety of sounds. One end of the dhol offers bass whereas the other side offers treble. A wide cotton belt is strapped to the dhol, which allows it to go around the player's shoulders.



Made From: Teak and rosewood trees

Famous Players: Ustad Alla Rakha, ZakirHhussain

Making of a Tabla: The tabla is constructed from a tapering piece of teak or rosewood which is hollowed out to almost half of its total depth. A leather head is then stretched onto the hollowed out chunk of wood. An inner black-coloured circle known as a syahi is attached to this skin. A syahi is created from a mixture of iron filling powder and rice paste. To create pressure on the head, the straps are tightened with the help of a ghatta. A ghatta is a cylindrical wooden peg that is added in between the straps and the skin to adjust the tension.


STRING INSTRUMENTS: Musical instruments that produce sound through vibrating strings.



Made From: Rosewood trees

Famous Players: Ustad Sultan Khan, Sabri Khan

Making of a Sarangi: The instrument is engraved out of a single block of rosewood. It has got a box-like shape and it is generally 2ft long and 1/2ft wide. The lower chamber is made from red cedar wood. Decorated leather strips are used to cover the chamber, which helps hold the bridge which in turn holds around 40 strings. The strings are of two types, producing two different sounds. Three are comparatively thick, tight and short and the remaining are the resonance strings.



Made From: Dried pumpkin and rosewood trees

Famous Players: Pandit Ravi Shankar,  Ustad Vilayat Khan

Making of a Sitar: It is believed that the sitar was developed by the famous Indian musician, scholar and poet Amir Khusro in the 13th century. The sitar is made of a dried pumpkin and wood. The body is made from the pumpkin and the neck is made from rosewood. A sitar can have 21, 22 or 23 strings. Among them, six or seven playable strings run over the upper part of the sitar's body. What makes the instrument different is the fact that it has two bridges. The large bridge (badaa goraa) is used for playing and the drone strings and the small bridge (chota goraa) create the background notes. As a string reverberates its length changes slightly as its edge touches the bridge, promoting the creation of overtones and giving the sound its distinctive tone.



Made From: Walnut or maple wood trees

Famous Players: Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, Tarun Bhattacharya

Making of a Santoor: The framework of a santoor is normally made using walnut or maple wood. Plywood or veneer could be used on the top or bottom boards of this instrument. Wooden bridges are positioned on the top board to place stretched strings across. On the left side of the santoor, the strings are fixed on pins and they are stretched above the sound board to the right side over the bridges. This instrument is played either using mallets or hammers.



Made From: Bamboo and dried gourd shells

Famous Players: Famous with the baul fakirs of Bengal

Making of an Ektara: A part of a dried gourd shell is used to construct the ektara such that it works as a sound-box. A metal string runs right across the middle of the shell and is tied to a knob adjusting the pressure on the string. This is supported by two bamboo strips tied to two sides of the gourd shell. The instrument is played in a pluck and gong style.


WOODWIND INSTRUMENTS: A musical instrument which produces sound when the player blows air against a sharp edge or through a reed, causing the air to vibrate.



Made From: Aacha trees

Famous Players: Karukurichi Arunachalam, Sheik Chinna Moulana

Making of a Nadaswaram: Traditionally the nadaswaram's body is created out of the aacha tree. Nadaswaram is a double reed instrument that has a tapering bore. This instrument is very similar to the shehnai but larger, with an aacha wood body and a large flaring bell made of wood or metal. The mouthpiece is made of reed. There are seven finger-holes on a nadaswaram and five extra holes at the bottom that are used as controllers. This instrument produces sounds similar to that of a flute.



Made From: Bamboo

Famous Players: Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, Pannalal Ghosh

Making of a Bansuri: The bansuri, better known as the flute, is a cylindrical tube created out of bamboo. A cork is positioned towards the top, which creates the pressure that helps air to be pushed in the reverse direction. Bansuris have six to seven finger holes. The index, middle and fourth fingers of both hands are usually used to play the six-hole bansuri. For the seven-hole bansuri, the fifth finger (pinky) of the right hand is usually used.